500 Days with Facebook is an up and coming ebook we’re planning as a free manual on how to succeed with social media marketing in the Philippines. It’s a detailed case study we ran with everyone’s favorite way to interact with friends and family (or you know, to see if our exes got fat).
We understand that many of the things we’ve found out in this case study have been discussed at length by bloggers and web developers alike; but these debates aren’t really supported with any real-world data. This is our answer.
200 brands. 5,000 friends. One question.
500 days with Facebook.
For this experiment, we came up with a list of 200 brands and businesses that were willing to participate in our experiment. These accounts ranged from online lingerie retailers to small drop-shipping businesses; from freelance make-up artists to small outdoor advertising companies; spread across major cities in the Philippines.
We gave each of the participating businesses a crash course on social media marketing with Facebook. We taught them our content standards; what worked and what didn’t for their target markets. They consulted us before they uploaded content and we gave our recommendations accordingly.
Our participants started with vanilla accounts, with zero connections, no friends and no status updates. Our teams of account developers helped them gather a significant following of 250 contacts each (thus reflecting the average friends an average Asian Facebook user has).
After obtaining that number, all friend requests (both inbound and outbound) were put on hold. Again, these contacts were geo-targeted according to the ideal demographics of the participants to better reflect how social media marketing is done in the real world.
At this point, it’s worth mentioning why we didn’t simply come up with business pages. The reason is simple: interaction. While at the time of the experiment, pages have become a significant part of the Facebook eco-system, pages can’t engage users on an individual level (unlike personal accounts or Twitter profiles) through private or direct messages.
A Standard of Measure
After 500 days with Facebook (roughly 16 months), we evaluated all of the accounts based on our parameters. At the end of the experiment we took down the PageRank of each of the 200 participating accounts. Now before you start hurling invectives in our general direction, we’d like to point out a few things:
First, we know that PageRank, as a unit of measure is flawed. It’s extremely arbitrary and a very inadequate measure of a domain’s authority. It’s become outdated and outmoded in many Internet Marketing circles.
Second, there are plenty of tools for statistical analysis on a particular brand’s or business’s reach. We have no qualms with these tools and checkers (in fact, we love them!) but for something tucked away inside Facebook’s network, we needed something simpler. If a very public Facebook account’s value was broken down into a single digit, we think PageRank would be the answer.
While our brand strategists and data analysts crunch the numbers, PageRank will do for now.
On Frequency of Updates
For our experimental variable, we asked 20 participants to make daily status updates between 12-4pm (Manila Time). These updates ranged from their most recent offers or promotions to their thoughts on trending topics.
When the Philippine King of Comedy passed away, these brands paid a small tribute. One local music store uploaded vintage LP records of the comedian’s heyday (he was a prolific recording artist in the 60′s). One small bakery did a cake of his most iconic photos.
For our control group, 20 participants adhered to the same content standards we developed for them but they only updated their accounts once a week; throughout the period of the experiment.
The average PageRank obtained by the experimental group was 3.37 while the control managed only 1.83.
Takeaway: Try to update your Facebook profiles every day. While most brands and businesses will struggle to come up with engaging content daily, we recommend updating at least twice a week.
On Images and Calls-to-Action
Images and videos tend to do well in our book so we also ran an experiment on them. This time, 20 small companies uploaded images of their businesses, their latest promotions or their takes on current trending topics. The experimental group included great calls-to-action while the control only added a brief description.
Our account developers exerted great effort to keep these photos up to the quality and content standards we’ve developed for this group. Still, the results are glaring: the experimental group’s average PageRank was 3.39 while the control group scored 2.15.
Takeaway: Great images, even those rooted on human interest and trending topics are never enough. They need compelling copy and thought provoking calls-to-action.
As one of our Account Developers puts it: it’s the new coke. They’re the online equivalent of a fist bump. They’re highly addictive and when consumed in massive quantities, they tend to keep us glued on our mobile devices and up all night. We take them as a small but accurate measure of our online clout.
For our experimental group, we asked our participants to like at least ten status updates, photos or videos and but no more than 30 posts per 24 hours. The control group simply went about their campaign without liking.
After 500 days, the experimental group scored a mean PageRank of 4.22 while the control managed only 1.92.
Takeaway: We attribute the disparity not to the mere act of liking but more to the connections that the experimental group obtained by (indirectly) engaging their users. Our early math suggests that there is a direct correlation between liking and getting liked by total strangers, up to 86% of the time.
When you take a long, hard look at Facebook Page Analytics, you’ll notice that Facebook puts a premium on shares. It not only gives a brand or a page more exposure, but does it in an almost logarithmic progression.
For our experimental group, we asked 20 participants to repost or share at least 10 posts from their feeds and set the ceiling at 30, each day. Again, the control group did not repost or reshare.
At the end of the experiment, the experimental group scored a mean PageRank of 5.12 versus the control group’s 2.29.
Interestingly, the experimental group obtained more friend requests than anyone else in the case study; outscoring everyone by at least a factor of 10.
Takeaway: Facebook correctly values shares. Just as in the above group, we’re attributing the disparity in PageRank on the shares that these brands have also obtained on their own. Make shares your top priority whenever you’re doing promotions or social media marketing with Facebook.
When it comes to comments, especially on Facebook, we’d like to think of them as double-edged swords. A well-placed, well-timed and thoughtful comment can easily ignite an instant connection. Do it in a rather robotic or generic manner and you can be easily blocked and branded a spammer.
For our experimental group, we asked 20 participants to leave at least five thoughtful comments on their friends’ posts per day; while the control group simply went about their business.
The scores were telling: experimental group had 3.72 versus the control’s 2.61.
Takeaway: We observed that difference may not necessarily because of the comments made by our experimental group; but perhaps more about the excitement they were able to generate among their friends.
Results and Recommendations
As far as experiments go, we think that 500 Days with Facebook is as success, albeit a qualified one. Its beauty lies not in what we learned from the experiment but on how it was able to find proof for the concepts that various social media marketing coaches have been harping on for the past years.
In its beauty, we also find its flaws. Some of our analysts insist that the experiment would have been better off if we personally handled all the accounts to ensure an equal, or more balanced quality in terms of the content uploaded by the200 participants.
Still, here are our initial recommendations if you plan to use Facebook as part of your social media marketing plan or strategy:
- Reciprocity is key. Based on the initial statistical disparity of the scores, we find that brands and businesses should never live in ivory towers. In this day and age of ravaging Google updates and uncertainty in the world of SEO being social can never hurt anybody, even if it’s just on Facebook.
- Personal accounts are still highly recommended. They’re much easier to grow than business pages. Always aim for shares first; then comments and likes.
- Social media marketing with Facebook should never exist in a vacuum. Brands and businesses can’t simply count on their FB accounts or pages but should use them to support and drive more traffic towards their company websites.
Have you tried to run similar experiments on social media marketing with Facebook? Share your experience or ask your questions in the comments below.
Author Bio: Shandi Tan is a Community Manager for Pulyetos, the premiere resource for online reputation management and social media marketing in the Philippines. Visit Pulyetos for more updates on 500 Days with Facebook.